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Thirtieth anniversary of Berber Spring sees gains for Kabylians

April 20, 2010 - ALGERIA

The Berber (Amazigh) Spring refers to the 1980 period of unrest in the Kabylie region that began on 10 Mar and ended on 20 Apr with the arrest of hundreds of Berber activists. The fight for Berber rights predated the 1980 unrest, and is ongoing. An estimated 200,000 Berbers protested in Algiers in 2001, and four died in clashes with police. Some Kabylians demand autonomy. Berbers have made made some gains and these could keep the 30th anniversary observances peaceful.

The Berber (Amazigh) Spring refers to the 1980 period of unrest in the Kabylie region that began on 10 Mar and ended on 20 Apr with the arrest of hundreds of Berber activists. The fight for Berber rights predated the 1980 unrest, and is ongoing. An estimated 200,000 Berbers protested in Algiers in 2001, and four died in clashes with police. Some Kabylians demand autonomy. Berbers have made made some gains and these could keep the 30th anniversary observances peaceful. Institutions close for the day in the region on Apr 20, and marches and commemorations are held for the Kabylians who died for official recognition of Berber culture and rights. Matoub Lounes, a singer who promoted the linguistic and cultural rights of the Berbers, was killed in an ambush in June 1998, shortly after his latest album parodied the national anthem. His death sparked weeks of violent protests. Chief among the demands is recognition of the Tamazight language as an official language equal to Arabic. Kabylians argue that their cultural and linguistic heritage in pre-Islamic North Africa predates the Arab conquest. In 2003 the Algerian authorities made Tamazight a national language, but they balk at giving it equal status. In 2005 the government set up the country's first Tamazight television station. Many other points of contention remain. The Kabylie region, east of Algiers, is home to some 5 million Berbers. The region remains a stronghold of major Algerian opposition parties born from the country's Berber rights (Amazigh) movement. Berbers are the indigenous people of North Africa and live primarily in Morocco, Algeria, Libya, and Tunisia. Although Berbers once ruled over kingdoms in the region, the Arabs conquered the area beginning in the seventh century. Today, most Berbers are Muslim, although many still retain their own ancient customs and festivals, particularly in rural areas. Jan/10

Kabylie Info

Morocco&rsquos minorities finally get on the air (The National 11 Jan 2010)

Q&A: The Berbers (BBC Mar 2004)

Date written/update: 2010-04-20